By Brad Fauber
Never mind that Central lost its all-time leading scorer, Stephen Hamrick, and eight other seniors to graduation at the end of last season -- head coach Ted Poor had a feeling the Falcons would be just fine this spring.
"I honestly thought that we would be better because we were young last year. ... I was pretty sure we were going to be more competitive this year just by the nature of the guys that we had returning," Poor said Wednesday.
It's now just past the midway point of the 2014 regular season, and it appears Poor's assumption was spot on.
Central (5-2-2) currently finds itself in third place in a very competitive Bull Run District race, as the Falcons trail only defending state champion George Mason and William Monroe in the district standings.
Aside from a drubbing at the hands of George Mason on April 4 and a disappointing performance in a 5-0 loss at William Monroe on April 17, the Falcons have been very competitive. Central has had some big wins this season, including two over Warren County and a 2-0 win over Manassas Park at home on April 11.
"The league has definitely gotten more consistent team by team. It seems like everybody is beating everybody," Poor said. "There's really not a soft game. On any given day you can get beat."
Japanese foreign-exchange student Taishi Ukai continues to dazzle on the pitch for the Falcons, as he leads the team with 12 goals to go along with four assists. Sophomore forward Tyler Bosserman has scored three goals and has four assists, and junior Franklin Hernandez has five assists from his midfield position.
Junior keeper Jose Martinez has also been stout in goal for Central, tallying 63 saves so far and recording two shutouts.
Central has had to deal with a handful of injuries this season and Poor said the Falcons will be without four players -- including Ukai, who is going out of town with his host family -- today against Rappahannock County.
"We're a little bit shorthanded, but fortunately this year we have some good depth," Poor said.
BUILDING CONFIDENCE: Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team didn't begin this season the way it had hoped to.
After winning 24 straight games last season before falling to George Mason in the Group A state championship match, the Generals certainly some optimism entering this spring. But Stonewall lost three of its first four matches of 2014 -- including its first Shenandoah District loss in five seasons -- and the Generals were suddenly scrambling to find some semblance of the program that has been a such consistent winner in recent history.
The Generals seem to finally be reclaiming the identity that has built Stonewall into such a strong program, as they have won four of their last five matches, and in impressive fashion.
"They're still not perfect. They're not the team they were last year by any means, at this point, either. They're still growing. But I do think that with these last couple games ... they may not be the hardest games, but they're something to give us a little confidence," Generals second-year coach Caleb Golladay said Tuesday. "... I think that's something that these guys needed going into Stuarts Draft on Thursday."
Stonewall (5-4, 5-2 Shenandoah) has scored 23 of its 26 total goals in its four wins since April 11. During that span, the Generals had wins of 7-2, 8-0 and 6-1 over Buffalo Gap, Luray and Page County, respectively. Those three teams rank in the bottom third of the Shenandoah District, but Golladay said the Generals are showing more effort than they did at the beginning of the season.
"I think that's definitely something that we're getting back to. We're getting back to how we know that we need to fight each game, and how we know we need to play," Golladay said. "That's the most important thing to me is just the fact that we know that we're getting back to where we need to be, where we were last year."
NOT MISSING A BEAT: Sherando said goodbye to 13 seniors from last season's regional qualifying team, but the Warriors have reloaded quite nicely this spring.
The Warriors are currently 7-1 this season and are in sole possession of first place in the Northwestern District after a 2-1 win over Millbrook last week.
Sherando figured to have plenty of firepower returning from last year's team, as 2013 scoring co-leader Tommy Buono offers plenty of goal-scoring capability, but the Warriors have had to do a lot of work without the junior this season.
Buono, who is also playing club soccer this spring, has played in just four games for the Warriors this season, though he does lead Sherando with six goals. Plenty of Warriors have helped pick up the slack, however, as Andrew Wade has notched four goals and Jack Flanagan, Jov Hall, Zach Wagner and Tanner Wernecke have all scored three goals each for Sherando.
Junior goalkeeper Kevin Riley is also performing well in his first season in the net for the Warriors, as he has 55 saves and three shutouts already this season.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD